This evening at our mission at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Raleigh, North Carolina, I recommended reading the gospels for the rich spirituality each of them offers.
Tonight we read St Luke’s passion narrative, the focal point of his gospel. All the narratives before it, from the infancy narrative, to the accounts of Jesus’ baptism, his initial mission in Galilee, and his journey to Jerusalem lead to his passion, death and resurrection.
Jesus does not journey alone, nor does he suffer and die and rise again alone. He does not enter paradise alone. From Galilee to Jerusalem followers join him, interesting followers, like Zacchaeus the publican and the blind man on the Jericho road whom some might find questionable followers. Jesus embraces them.
In Luke’s gospel the mercy of Jesus seems to increase as he journeys to Calvary and his death on the Cross. He does not turn his face away from Peter who denies him. He reaches out to those who crucify him: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Calvary, a place of death, becomes a shining place of mercy. A thief who simply asks for remembrance is promised paradise. “Today, you will be with me in paradise.
The thief finds a companion in death. He does not die alone or without hope. Reading Luke’s gospel we hear this same promise made to us. The thief is sinful humanity.